H.R. 4441

Rep. Shuster (R-PA) (for himself and Mr. LoBiondo (R-NJ)) introduced H.R. 4441 in the House on February 3, 2016; which was then referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Mr. Shuster is Chairman of that committee.  The Bill was referred to the subcommittee on Aviation on February 4, 2016.  Its primary goal is to transfer operation of air traffic services currently provided by the FAA to a separate not-for-profit corporate entity, and to reauthorize and streamline programs of the Federal Aviation Administration.  Short title is the "Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (or AIRR)"  It would create a new Chapter 455--Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which you can read here.

In this crazy election year don’t hold your breath waiting for it to pass Congress and be sent to the President.  Govtrack.us gives it an 11% chance of being enacted.  The privatization of ATC is being seen as a power grab by big airlines, and the Bill is opposed by the National Business Aviation Association.  You can read the testimony of Edward Bolin, the NBAA president and CEO, here.

As the FAA currently interprests Section 336(a) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (MRA),  it has no authorization to regulate model aircraft under certain circumstance, which the statue defines as when the model aircraft is being operated "in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization.”  DOG calls this the AMA exception.  The Academy of Model Aeronautics safety code is here.  In other words, if you are operating according to AMA safety guidelines at an AMA event, (and you also follow the next two conditions), then the FAA can’t regulate your operation.   The other two conditions are that the aircraft "is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft,” and the airport 5 mile notice provision.

H.R. 4441 would not change the defintion of a model aircraft.  In fact as proposed new 49 U.S.C. §45501(4) is identical to existing FAA Sec. 336(c), and as proposed new 49 U.S.C. §45507(a) is identical to existing FAA Sec. 336(a).  So, HR 4441 is unlikely to change anything for recreational use of drones.

One thing it would do is task the FAA with preparing a report on the reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the registration system that it currently requires for small UAS.  The Interim FInal Rule for that system is here.  The FAA page for registering UAS used for hobby or recreational purposes is here.  Registering UAS used for other purposes currently requires a paper-based application described here.

The Bill was amended on February 11 and reported out to the House as a whole for consideration, but DOG has not yet found a copy of the amendment.  DJI has a press release (not a primary source of course) that tells us the amendment was made by Rep. Davis (R-Ill.) and proposes a new category of “micro drones” but even if so, this is a long way from being law.

If you would like to track this bill look here:

`© Robert Rose 2015